On Wednesday, Florida Republican U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart raised concerns with Aviation Director and CEO of Miami International Airport Lester Sola regarding offers from firms, like CIMC-Tiiana, a Chinese state-backed enterprise, that may seek to undermine American aviation security and industrial competitiveness.
In the letter, the members wrote that “CIMC-Tianda has already been found guilty of industrial espionage by a U.S. Federal District court in Houston, TX. The decision ruled that CIMC-Tianda misled a company into a transfer of its business and design information as it relates to passenger boarding bridges. This information was later used by CIMC-Tianda to compete in the market with stolen intellectual property, at a significantly lower bid.”
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Mr. Sola:
It has recently come to our attention that Miami International Airport is considering awarding contracts for passenger boarding bridges to CIMC-Tianda, a Chinese firm and state-backed enterprise. As you evaluate bids to supply passenger boarding bridges and other components to the airport, we urge you to consider rejecting offers from firms that may seek to infiltrate and exploit American aviation and security networks.
As you are aware, aviation is a critical sector of our nation’s infrastructure, with airports in particular emerging as a high priority target for sabotage and espionage by our adversaries. The increasing digitalization of aircraft systems and airport security procedures places the sensitive and personal information of American travelers at an increased exposure risk and creates new vulnerabilities for malign actors, like the Chinese regime, to exploit. It is vital to fully consider all security and privacy risks when considering whether to allow firms with ties to the Chinese regime to embed themselves within U.S. airports. Further, language included in the report for the Senate’s funding bill for the Department of Transportation (S. 2520) specifically raises concerns over boarding bridges manufactured by foreign state-owned enterprises.
Additionally, CIMC-Tianda has already been found guilty of industrial espionage by a U.S. Federal District court in Houston, TX. The decision ruled that CIMC-Tianda misled a company into a transfer of its business and design information as it relates to passenger boarding bridges. This information was later used by CIMC-Tianda to compete in the market with stolen intellectual property, at a significantly lower bid.
While equipment, such as passenger boarding bridges, from Chinese state-backed enterprises may boast attractive price tags, the associated security drawbacks are too serious to ignore. The Chinese regime, using state-funded and state-directed companies, has already targeted U.S. transit networks in an attempt to undermine American industrial capacity and national security. Congress has responded to this by approving language in the Conference Report for the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1790/H.R. 2500) which bars federal funding from being used by local transit agencies to contract with Chinese state-sponsored entities for the procurement of rolling stock.
We thank you for your commitment to modernizing Miami International Airport and upgrading systems to ensure the safety, security, and comfort of travelers. As you do so, it is critical to identify technology and infrastructure components from untrusted and high-risk vendors, such as CIMC-Tianda. Thank you for your consideration of our concerns and we look forward to continuing this discussion.